What do the roads represent in "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost?

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"The Road Not Taken" is one of the most recognized poems in American Literature written by a literary giant, Robert Frost.  Frost employs a metaphor based on the two roads.   These roads represent the choices man has to make that determine the outcome of his life. Career, marriage, education--all are selections that one makes as he goes through life.

The first person point of view enables the narrator to speak directly to the reader about the alternatives that he has before him.  When the poem begins, it is fall with the leaves turning yellow.  The man comes to a “Y” in the road.  Indecisive about which way to go, the narrator establishes that he would like to move down both paths; but that is an impossibility. He stands and contemplates the options carefully:

A.  One road has a bend which is hard to see. Both have equal wear and apparently have not been disturbed since the leaves had fallen. He decides that if he comes back to this spot again [which he doubts], that it will be the path he follows.

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth

B. The other road he thinks has more grass and less wear, but then decides the roads are about the same. He does say that the road that he chooses is more fair.

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Finally, the man decides that the second road is less traveled. Fewer people have made the choice to proceed the way he chooses.  Why would that make a difference? Perhaps, it has more obstacles to conquer and challenges to surmount.  Whatever his reasoning, the narrator takes the road and feels like that made a real difference in his life.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I--

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.